I’m not gonna pussy-foot around saying that it’s a lot of hard work. Because it is. Trufax. Studying any language to any degree of fluency takes an awful lot of time – it’s not an instant gratification kind of thing.
But studying an East Asian language at university is so different to studying a European language at GCSE, it’s actually quite laughable.
First up, you don’t just study the language – a concept which may seem blindingly obvious, but some people do think that’s all it is. You get your language modules, but you also study the country’s history, society, and international relations, plus those of its’ neighbours. It means you end up with a working knowledge of the region.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never studied the language before you get to uni, as the courses start from scratch. It might help to familiarise yourself with writing systems and basic words before class starts, but it isn’t a requirement the same way an A Level in French is to study French.
Language class wise, you’ll have grammar, speaking, reading and translation each week as contact hours, and a weekly homework so you can practice at, well, home. If you need help, you can always chat to a tutor in their contact hours
There is no easy way to say that language learning, especially for an East Asian language, takes an awful lot of time to become proficient. It’s very much a case of not practicing until you get it right, but practicing until you can’t get it wrong. The key to doing well is self study – memorising vocab, grammar patterns, endless amount of translation.
And that’s just for the language side of things. For the studies modules, you’re looking at a minimum , depending on the number of credits a module carries, of 60 hours of reading or a minimum of 170. Language degrees require a ridiculous amount of self discipline and organisation so that you can do the very best you can. Sad fact of life is, if you’re doing a dual (Korean with Japanese, Korean and music, Chinese and French, Korean/Japanese/Chinese and Business, the list goes on…) you will basically have no free time. Soz.
The good news – the books aren’t usually as expensive as law (personal sister experience). There are also a lot of extra resources you can find online to help that will definitely not hurt your bank balance.
Studying a language at university is also stressful. It’ll play with your emotions when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, and there will be times when you want to give up and switch degrees. You’ll probably end up missing a few nights out to fit in that vocab before midterms/finals, or pulling an unreasonable amount of all nighters because you have essay deadlines and forgot about something language related. Also, exams.
The experience of being able to hold a conversation in a different language is brilliant. Also, languages are super duper useful to help get a job – plus you have a whole ‘nother country to go and explore after graduation that could potentially give you work. Also, year abroad. The employment prospects afterwards are also pretty neat – which tends to be a brilliant motivator when the going gets tough.
Languages are a great degree choice if you’re inclined. It’s stress and hard work, but rewarding and a great skill to have. If you have any specific questions about studying Korean, then ask away – since I’ve tried to keep this as ‘language generic’ as possible.
Have you ever thought about studying a language at degree level before? If you have or do, what are your experiences?